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The following was preached at Veedersburg and Hillsboro UMC on Sunday, April 19, 2009.  The text for this week’s sermon is 1 John 1:1-2:2.
We have a choice when it comes to living a life of faith.  We can either chose to devote our entire lives to God, or we can choose to live our lives however we want, as though there is no God who will hold us accountable at the end of all things.  We are in a time now of having to deal with the reality of Jesus Christ.  We celebrated Easter last week, but was it just a religious observance that we make part of our annual routine, or was it the beginning of a new approach to life?  Ultimately, you are the one that has to make that decision for your life, but being here this morning is at least a step in the right direction.  The post-Easter life is about being transformed by the message of the gospel in a very real and visible way, and sharing the message with those around us.
As we read the beginning of John’s letter, we see right away that John is reminding his audience of something important that he has shared with them before.  They are not getting this message second-hand.  What they have heard from John is not just rumor and legend.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  It is something that they’ve seen, looked at, touched and heard.  It was a physical reality.  It wasn’t just a vision that only one person saw.  It wasn’t a spiritualization of some event in that occurred Judea.  It was verifiable.  It could be seen, touched and heard.
There have been a lot of different ways to explain away the resurrection over the centuries, but none can adequately explain an empty tomb, Jesus’ appearances that are reported in the New Testament, the post-resurrection preaching and the martyrdom of the first disciples.  The only explanation that can adequately resolve these four realities of early Christianity is that Jesus rose from the dead.  And as much as that conclusion contradicts what we have been raised to believe about the world around us, it’s the only explanation that fits all the evidence.
What we need to come to terms with when it comes to the origins of the Christian faith is that the disciples were not just spreading fanciful stories.  They were telling others of the good news that they received on Easter morning.  They were talking about their experiences of seeing, hearing and touching the risen Jesus Christ.  After the resurrection, Luke tells us that Jesus spent 40 days with the disciples, speaking with them about the kingdom of God.  It was their last chance to take it all in before the ascension, which we’ll talk about some more in a few weeks.
Hopefully, if you are here this morning, you have heard the story before.  Perhaps you’ve been following Jesus for a long time; perhaps you are new to this whole thing.  One way or another, everybody here today is here for a reason.  Now, I’m not naïve enough to assume that everyone that goes to church is a Christian.  In fact, you’ve heard me say, and will hear me say, on several occasions that just showing up to church doesn’t make a person a Christian.  The Christian faith is something that is lived out on a daily basis.  That is what the post-Easter life is all about.  It’s about hearing the story again, and letting it change your life.
One of the complaints that people often have about churches, which we talked about last week, is that they are full of hypocrites.  I have to admit, in my life I’ve been to a lot of different churches, and I’ve seen it a lot.  And, honestly, it breaks my heart.  Sometimes, it is a case of somebody putting on their “church face” on Sunday morning and living as though they don’t go to church during the rest of the week.  Sometimes, it is as simple as miscommunication.  I really believe that most problems can be solved by simply talking them out with one another.  There will always be people who just don’t get along, but one way or another, we need to be willing to set aside some personal differences in favor of the greater good.
The message of the gospel is too important for us to get in our own way.  We need to create an environment where people can feel like they don’t have it all together.  We need to be willing to set aside differences and come together to be transformed by God.  We need to be willing to work together to share the gospel with those in our communities who are hurting and are in need of the hope and redemption that is available in the gospel.
Church is a gathering place for believers, but it also needs to be a safe place for those who don’t believe, or maybe don’t believe as much as everyone assumes.  This sanctuary needs to be a safe zone for those with questions.  In fact, if you do have questions, my email and phone number are in the bulletin nearly every week.  Please, send me an email, give me a phone call.  Sometimes, I’m really bad about returning phone calls.  I’m sorry.  It’s something that I have been working on.  But, y’all know that pastors only working one day a week.  Okay, that’s not true, but I’m not so busy that I can’t make time to meet with people who have questions.
 The point I’m trying to make is that if we ever get to the point that all we have in church are Christians, then we are doing something wrong.  We need to be sharing our faith with others.  We need to be welcoming to those who may come here with questions.  We need to be relevant by not pretending that we are something that we are not, and connecting with people in genuine ways.  We need to combat the perception that churches are full of hypocrites by consciously living out our faith every single day.  We also need to be sharing our faith with others through our actions.
An important component of our faith is the fact that we need to be sharing it with others.  How many here have heard of Stephen Curtis Chapman?  It’s okay to raise your hands, I won’t tell anybody.  He has a song out that’s called “Live Out Loud.”  Here are some of the lyrics to the opening of the song:
 
Imagine this
I get a phone call from Regis –
he says “Do you want to be a millionaire?”
They put me on a show and I win
with two lifelines to spare.

Picture this
I act like nothing ever happened
and bury all the money in a coffee can
Well, I’ve been given more than Regis ever gave away
I was a dead man who was called to come out of my grave.
So, some questions we need to consider this morning are: how are we living our lives in light of Jesus’ resurrection?  Are we just going on with our lives as though nothing is different?  Do we realize the depth of what we have been given in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus?  Has it made a significant impact on our lives?  How are we to live out our post-Easter lives?  We need to, as the chorus of this song suggests, live out loud.  People will know our faith by watching us.  We need to live in the light.
John talks about the contrast between the light and the darkness in his gospel and he picks up on it here as well, in verses 5-7.  It cuts right to the heart of hypocrisy.  If we claim to have fellowship with God, but fail to live in the light, we are nothing more than liars.  Harsh words here, but it’s true.  If we say that we are in a relationship with God, but fail to live out this life, what are we doing?  
We are soiling our witness as Christians.  We are giving others an opportunity to look down on our faith because we are poor representatives of it.  It is so important for us to live our faiths because if we don’t, we are only fooling ourselves.  We can’t trick God into believing that He is the priority in our lives if He’s not.  We may be able to fool others for a while, but in the end, ours lies will catch up with us.  
Have you ever felt like people are going to figure you out?  You know that there are things in your life that you shouldn’t be doing.  You know the deep, dark thoughts that run through your head; the thoughts that you allow to take over from time to time.  Sometimes this is just the enemy trying to get us down, but other times it is a reflection of who we really are.  We know that we aren’t living like we are supposed to be, and the Holy Spirit is working in our lives to help us erradicate those areas where we haven’t given over full control.  My advice, if you’ll allow me to give some here, is to give in.
Allow the Holy Spirit to root out those areas in your life that are holding you back; those areas that are ruining your witness with other people.  If we truly live in fellowship with God, then our sins are forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ.  This doesn’t mean that our past is erased and that we are totally without sin.  That’s what John is saying at the end of this passage.  We aren’t without sin, but our sin has been cleansed.  If we only confess those areas in our life where sin reigns, then we will be forgiven.  If we never recognize our sin in the first place, we are merely deceiving ourselves.  Paul tells us in Romans 3, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  But he also says that there is justification through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
The post-Easter life is about recognizing that we have all fallen short in our lives.  We all have made mistakes.  We all struggle with doubts.  We have all sinned.  But it is also about recognizing that those sins no longer have a hold on us.  Jesus lived, died and was raised from the dead so that we could see what it looks like to live in full relationship with God.  The fellowship that Jesus had with the Father is a model for us in our faith.
The post-Easter life is also about knowing that we are not without hope.  It’s not like God shows us the problem and doesn’t provide a solution.  He provides the solution in Jesus.  Sin, the gap between God and each one of us here this morning, is overcome by Jesus.  Jesus didn’t just come to teach us how to love one another.  He came so that we can be forgiven of our sins.  So that we no longer have to be trapped by the past; no longer pulled down by our sin.  It gives us the possibility of a transformed life.
So the questions I want to leave you with today are many, but I would focus on just a few.  How has your life been transformed by Jesus?  Maybe it has, maybe it hasn’t, but think about it some this week.  Will you take the opportunity that is before you this morning to begin living the post-Easter life?  Will your life be different because of the resurrection of Jesus?  How will you share this new life with others?  How will you live out loud?
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